Dan Tangmo , Film Critic
Taiwanese director Chen Zhegdao’s Eternal Summer (2006) is a film about youth, coming of age, and same-sex love. The picture portrays three adolescents growing up in rural eastern Taiwan, their sexual awakening, and the complicated nature of love and friendship. Aimed at a young, Internet-savvy audience and marketed on an official blog, the film set a Taiwan record for advance ticket sales.
As a child, Yu Shouheng suffers from an attention-deficiency disorder, often misbehaving in class. His teacher arranges for Kang Zhengxing, a good student and well-mannered boy, to assist Yu Shouheng in an effort to improve the latter’s grades and conduct. Thus, the two are “mandated” to become friends. Both go on to attend the same high school, by which time they have become best buddies, always in each other’s company. When they are joined by Jiahui, a female transfer student, the tale takes a bittersweet turn as the youths struggle with issues of friendship and sexual identity.
Eternal Summer taps into collective memories of school life in Taiwan – teachers’ absolute authority, dress codes, and hair regulations. The film also depicts students’ burgeoning sexual awareness within the oppressive learning environment, as well as the budding of same-sex love and desire, especially that between two males. Shouheng and Zhengxing have become emotionally intimate over the years, yet each is innocently unaware of the nature of their relationship. It is only when a young woman comes between them that they suddenly realize their feelings – as a line in the film has it, “When you grow up everything changes.” Eternal Summer speaks to perplexity people feel as they come of age.
The film is a record of both the beauty of the eastern Taiwan countryside and university life in Taipei. The grade-school scenes were shot at the abandoned Jiqi Elementary School, located in Hualian County’s Fengbin Township; the high-school scenes were filmed at both National Yuli High School and Hualian Vocational High School. Footage of the boys riding bicycles past verdant rice paddies after school was shot in Taitung’s Guanshan area. The photo on the movie poster, where the three youths are shown eating ice cream in front of an old house, was snapped in Hualian’s Xincheng Township. Many of the film’s props and backgrounds reawaken memories for those who have gone through Taiwan’s school system. The film also alludes to the massive earthquake of September 21, 1999, the disaster serving as a metaphor for the emotional upheaval experienced by the three youths. The sexual attraction the two young men feel for each other is meticulously detailed in scenes where they are riding together on a scooter, the unconscious jealousy they feel for each other, and the heartbreak and struggles they undergo in the course of their emotional entanglement – such portrayals of men are rare in Taiwanese cinema.
Although Eternal Summer is a common tale of a love triangle, the film’s appeal to collective memory has made it one of Taiwan’s most important LGBT-themed motion pictures.
Movie Eternal Summer trailer (Source: Flash Forward Entertainment)
|Related Literary Themes：||LGBT Literature|